May 22, 2020

Ear Pain in Children

Is Ear Pain Normal in a Baby or Child?


Ear pain is the most common reason parents bring their children to the pediatrician. Children are more prone to ear infections because they have smaller Eustachian tubes than adults. Five out of six children have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. 


What are the Signs of an Ear Infection?


Children with ear infections often will have fever, irritability, ear pain, difficulty sleeping and clumsiness. Usually these symptoms are preceded by congestion or cough. When a child is congested there is often extra fluid behind the ear drum that becomes infected, resulting in pain and fever. 


How to Treat Ear Infections in Children


Ear infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria. In children under two years of age we will often treat with oral antibiotics. This is because children under two are at a critical stage in speech development and we do not want the untreated infection to impact their hearing. Older children are more likely to clear the infection on their own. We will often hold off on antibiotics and take the “watchful waiting” approach. As your child grows and their ear canals get bigger and more angled, their risk for ear infection decreases. This usually happens around the age of six. 


Sometimes the infection worsens rapidly and the eardrum will burst. This causes discharge to come out of the ear canal. Often the child will experience relief when this happens because, in a way, the body has fought the infection on its own. If you notice this in your child, however, you should bring them into the office for further evaluation. 


Frequent Ear Infections


Children with frequent ear infections (more than 3 in 6 months or more than 6 in one year) are usually referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. Children who suffer from frequent ear infections will sometimes have tubes placed in their ear drums to prevent further infection, excessive antibiotic use and hearing loss. 


How to Prevent Ear Infections


Unfortunately there is not a lot you can do to prevent ear infections. The tendency towards them often runs in families. There are a few things you can do to decrease your child’s risk: vaccinate your children, frequent hand washing during cold and flu season, and when bottle feeding do so in an upright position. 


If you suspect your child is suffering from an ear infection please reach out and we can see them for a quick ear check.

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